BBC News - Education

Latest education news, comment and analysis on schools, colleges, universities, further and higher education and teaching from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice
  1. Research finds that of 9,115 titles published last year, only 4% featured BAME characters

    Only 1% of British children’s books feature a main character who is black or minority ethnic, a investigation into representations of people of colour has found, with the director calling the findings “stark and shocking”.

    In a research project that is the first of its kind, and funded by Arts Council England, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) asked UK publishers to submit books featuring BAME characters in 2017. Of the 9,115 children’s books published last year, researchers found that only 391 – 4% - featured BAME characters. Just 1% had a BAME main character, and a quarter of the books submitted only featured diversity in their background casts.

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  2. The answers to today’s puzzles

    In my puzzle blog earlier today I set you the following three challenges:

    1) The King of the Mountains went up the col at 15 km an hour and down it at 45 km an hour. It took him two hours in total. Assuming that the distance he travelled up and down are the same, how far is it from the bottom to the top of the col?

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  3. Run your brain through the gears

    UPDATE: Click here for the solutions.

    Bonjour guzzleurs,

    As we are almost midway through the Tour de France, I thought it would be a good moment for some bicycle puzzles.

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  4. Children educated by their parents must not be hidden from the authorities

    The killing of 18-year-old Jordan Burling was needless and preventable, a judge told his mother and grandmother on sentencing them for his manslaughter last week. Burling died from bronchopneumonia following a heart attack in 2016, but the underlying cause was malnutrition and neglect so extreme that it is painful to imagine.

    Defence lawyers stressed that Mr Burling was an adult, who had made what his grandmother Denise Cranston called a “choice” not to see a doctor. But he was a boy of 12 when his mother told the council she would home-school him. A safeguarding review will now examine how the authorities lost sight of Mr Burling, who had taken no exams nor gained any qualifications, and make recommendations as to how such a disaster can be avoided in future. But there is no reason for the government to wait before acting on behalf of other home-schooled children, of whom there are thought to be around 50,000 in the UK – a number that has increased sharply in recent years.

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  5. ‘Off-rolling’ difficult students to boost exam results is fuelling gang violence, says children’s czar

    Schools that unofficially exclude children to hide them from exam league tables are fuelling gang violence, the children’s commissioner for England says.

    Anne Longfield said she has begun an investigation into the practice of taking children “off-roll” without formally excluding them because they are viewed as difficult to manage and may drag down the school’s results.

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  6. The reality of a month and a half without school or nursery, when half of our potentially child-caring family members are away, has been quite a surprise

    Bear with me. Honestly, please give me two minutes to talk about the school holidays. Because I’m new to it, see, from this angle at least. Of course, I remember it from the other side, those gloriously boring deserts of time that stretched from July to infinity and took in almost 4,000 screaming rows and a number of own-brand Calippos.

    In the early days of my now desiccated memory there are trips to Cornwall and long car journeys listening to Uncle Johnny’s Party Tape TM with its tight edit of Motown and Leonard Cohen (“Why do we have to listen to rabbi music?” I once whined), and there are also whole days down at the brook, banking our 5ps for a bottle of Tango. Then in later years, a slow promenade around Brent Cross, our local, well, now I suppose we’d call it a mall with no embarrassment? It was the first place we were allowed to go without adults, and we relished these hours gliding over its mezzanines of brutalist capitalism, these tuna sandwiches eaten like grown-ups, dangling our legs in the indoor fountain.

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  7. Department for Education update to focus on exploitation, grooming, harassment and abuse - both online and offline

    Schoolchildren will be taught about consent and peer pressure in both the real world and the virtual one in the first major revamp of sex education lessons since they began.

    Understanding what consent means, how to both give it and recognise it in others, as well as the laws around sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, harassment and domestic abuse will be taught.

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  8. Metal hidden in underwear will be detected by airport scanners – and stop children being flown abroad

    Most children in Britain are looking forward to the summer holidays – but for some it will be a time of dread. This is a peak time for hundreds of girls, and some boys, to be spirited away and forced into a marriage abroad.

    One Yorkshire school has come up with an innovative approach to protect its pupils. Students at the Co-operative Academy of Leeds have been encouraged to alert authorities by putting a spoon in their underwear to trigger metal airport detectors. Children at the inner-city secondary in Harehills – an area with one of the city’s largest south Asian populations – have been given a metal spoon as part of a scheme designed to raise awareness about “honour”-based abuse and forced marriage.

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  9. Children’s services support officer Claire Mynott on her finances – and why it is a scandal how little women are paid

    I live on the brink. I work 35 hours for 39 weeks plus five weeks’ paid leave and, as a result of recent changes, three of us are doing the job of five, which means we are always playing catch-up.

    I’m now on £14,512 a year. It’s a knife-edge lifestyle. I just scrape by, but if anything unexpected happens it tips me over the edge and I have to borrow. At Christmas my boiler broke down and needed £300 worth of repairs and I had to borrow from my mother and pay her back in instalments. I still owe her £50.

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  10. Find a course at a UK university

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  11. The only US facility using shocks on children with learning disabilities has fought off another legal challenge

    In 2012, video of electric shock conditioning used inside the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center was released to the public for the first time. It showed 18-year-old Andre McCollins being restrained face down, shouting for help from the people around him. His calls go unanswered, and he is given repeated shocks which cause him to scream in pain.

    The footage appears to show McCollins being tortured. The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is not a rogue interrogation facility in a failed state, however, but a facility for children and adults with learning disabilities in Massachusetts.

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  12. Pupil numbers in nurseries and primaries to peak in 2019, with secondaries rising until 2025

    The pressure on school places in England is likely to ease slightly sooner than expected thanks to a lower birth rate than forecasters had anticipated.

    Although pupil numbers will continue to rise in the next few years, the rate of increase is slowing, according to government statistics published on Thursday.

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  13. Pupil funding in the two countries is now almost the same in real terms, according to new figures

    School funding in England has fallen by 8% in real terms since 2010, at a faster rate than in Wales, meaning that per pupil funding in the two countries is almost the same for the first time in many years, according to figures produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    The IFS said that the cuts in England are driven by a combination of a greater fall in spending by local authorities and school sixth form spending plus faster growth in pupil numbers. “As a result, the gap in school spending per pupil between England and Wales has been virtually eliminated,” it said in research to be published on Thursday.

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  14. Families say inspectors did not intervene over grammar school’s sixth-form exclusions despite multiple complaints

    Parents of sixth-form pupils still suffering mental distress after being illegally kicked out of St Olave’s grammar school, have turned their anger on Ofsted, accusing school inspectors of failing to intervene despite multiple complaints for being dazzled by the school’s academic record.

    The selective boys’ school in Orpington, south-east London, which achieves some of the highest A-level results in the country, was judged outstanding when Ofsted inspectors visited in 2014.

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  15. Proposed body would monitor universities to ensure that allegations of malpractice are properly investigated

    A national watchdog that has the power to punish British universities for failing to tackle research misconduct is needed to ensure that sloppy practices and outright fraud are caught and dealt with fast, MPs say.

    The new body would rule on whether universities have properly investigated allegations of malpractice and have the authority to recommend research funds be withdrawn or even reclaimed when it finds that inquiries into alleged wrongdoing have fallen short.

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  16. We asked you to share your summer term paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures. Here are some of our favourites

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  17. Recognising higher education as a major export is essential if the sector is to compete in the global marketplace

    A recent event of real importance to UK higher education has gone relatively unnoticed. When the Home Office expanded the list of countries that will benefit from a streamlined Tier 4 application process, it made it far easier for students from 11 countries, including China, to get visas to study in the UK.

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  18. A groundbreaking new project at Birkbeck funds foundation years for asylum seekers – with life-changing results

    When Janahan Sivanathan arrived in London aged 17, fleeing Sri Lanka because of his family’s involvement in the Tamil Tigers, he lived in a car garage for two years. Discovered by the authorities after a suicide attempt, he spent the following years in home office limbo, desperately trying to secure refugee status. Eight years later, he’s studying to become a lawyer and hoping to help asylum seekers facing similar plights – and he didn’t need refugee status to do it.

    Sivanathan’s story is stark, but not unusual. Asylum seekers can often end up stuck in limbo for years as they attempt to navigate the complicated system for proving refugee status legitimacy.

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  19. Office for Students wants help for those who may be at a disadvantage because of background

    The new higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OfS), is urging universities to pay more attention to socio-economic and school background, rather than just A-level grades, when deciding to award a place to a student.

    It wants institutions to be more ambitious on what are known as “contextual admissions”, offering places to students who have the potential to study at the highest level, but may be at a disadvantage because of background and school.

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  20. The higher education minister says there is a ‘culture of censorship’ at UK universities. Is there a problem, or is it a fuss about nothing?

    Universities visited by the higher education minister, Sam Gyimah, have denied that his recent comments about a “culture of censorship” could refer to them. Gyimah said: “At one institution when I turned up to speak to students they read the safe‑space policy and it took 20 minutes.”

    Yet all eight universities he had visited said this was not the case, according to the website Research Professional. A spokeswoman for the Department for Education explained: “I don’t believe he means someone actually read the policy out at one of the meetings, he means a student said it to him anecdotally.”

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  21. After a career in elite schools, Barnaby Lenon has written a book on vocational education, called Other People’s Children. Why?

    If you were a publisher wanting a book about what happens to those who fall in the bottom 50% academically, you probably wouldn’t choose a 64-year-old former headmaster of Harrow to write it. Nor perhaps would you choose the title Other People’s Children, with the implication that the offspring of book readers are bound to be high achievers. Nevertheless, Barnaby Lenon – who, apart from a term at Holland Park comprehensive in London, spent his entire teaching career in top private schools such as Eton and Highgate (north London) before becoming head at Harrow in 1999 – found a publisher for just such a book, published this summer.

    “It was quite presumptuous of me to write this book,” he confesses at the London offices of the Independent Schools Council, a lobbying organisation for the fee-charging sector, which he has chaired since he left Harrow in 2011. “It was a subject of which I knew very little,” he admits. “I’ve spent my life working with pupils who do A-levels and go to university.” He started researching it, he says, because he was then on the board of Ofqual, the exams regulator, which was switching its attention from GCSE and A-level reform to vocational qualifications. “It was difficult to find a simple guide to vocational education. So I thought: I’ll write one.”

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  22. Freelancers explain where to draw the line on unpaid projects

    Amber Massie-Blomfield wasn’t expecting to become a hero simply for turning down work. But when the 32-year-old, who is based in Brighton, was approached by the Department for Work and Pensions and asked to take part in a campaign to empower young women in the workplace – for no pay – she had to speak up.

    “They obviously didn’t recognise the irony,” she says. Blomfield was told that the DWP couldn’t pay contributors, but that the work, which included writing a blog, helping make a video and sharing her professional advice, would probably only take a few hours.

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  23. People with disabilities are more likely to stay silent when they’re abused, so we need proactive support

    A friend recently told me about how he had been angry and offensive to a colleague who suffers from ADHD and depression and struggles to maintain concentration: “If nobody puts him back in his place, he will never improve,” he said. I was shocked, and reminded of how difficult managing a disability can be.

    The thing is, I’m disabled too. But in a perverse sense I’m lucky, as I can hide my disability. I often wonder if I would struggle to manage my behaviour, too, if I received the same treatment as my colleague with a more visible disability.

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  24. We’re running out of time to deal with issues like climate change. Researchers must work at a local level to effect change


    Sometimes, the sheer weight of the social, economic and environmental “wicked problems” in our world can leave us feeling frozen, unable to take any kind of action. But these are exactly the kinds of problems that researchers everywhere can help with – especially if we use methods that include and draw attention to the communities most affected by them.

    First, let’s define our terms: the concept of a wicked problem dates to the 1970s, when two researchers used it to describe problems with no obvious or clear solution. Today, they’re also thought of as problems for which time to find a solution is running out.

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  25. It can take years to get a module approved – so how are universities supposed to offer cutting edge creative courses?

    For more than 10 years, I was fortunate enough to work in two camps, bridging academia and the creative industries. I lived what felt like parallel lives: by day I sent journalists to cover the attempted coup in Turkey, by night I’d teach camerawork and mark essays on gatekeeping theory.

    At the time I was working at the BBC and felt my role as an editor helped inform my teaching. Now some of my former students and mentees have successful media careers of their own. One is an editor on BBC Breakfast, another the chair of a global non-profit and another a successful social media manager for a luxury brand. Yet speaking to them, much of what got them there wasn’t the content of their lessons.

    Related:2VCs on... are university degree models stuck in the past?

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  26. Despite what the government thinks, higher education should be so much more than a ticket to a well-paid job

    According to the universities minister, Sam Gyimah, the most important thing about higher education is that it represents good value for money. The formula for this is clear: a research-intensive university, plus a degree in a science or business subject, equals cash for life. Of course, if you come from a background underrepresented in higher education, that formula works slightly less profitably, but that’s a minor detail.

    What a grim way to talk about education. What a picture to show to young people about their future. Trying to use a hard base of evidence for informing choices and shaping parental attitudes ignores what many young people feel and think. It lacks any spark of excitement or affinity.

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  27. I’m happy to have found secure work, but now I’m inside the university system I can see clearly how exploitative it is

    On the day I was interviewed for my current (permanent) job, I was homeless, broke and illegally squatting in an empty flat. My low-wage, nine-month academic contract at one of the most reputable universities in the world had just ended, leaving me penniless and saddled with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

    This would be my final interview. After waiting two and a half years on the job market, I received an email the next day offering me the position. I cried tears of relief. It was all over: the crippling stress, the anxiety, the unbearable precarity of short-term academic contract work.

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  28. When a colleague with shaky data raced a competitor to be first to publish, I saw how the perverse incentives in research work

    There’s an oft-repeated phrase in the scientific world that “competition drives innovation”. This can definitely sometimes be true, but in my experience the reality most of the time is that competition can be hugely wasteful and damaging to research.

    Take our lab, where we work in several high-profile areas. We’re aware that we have several major competitors around the world. We want to be first, we need to be first and we must keep it secret. Doing this can make or break a career, or decide a grant application outcome. It can even shape the future direction of the field.

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  29. Essay mills are becoming increasingly normalised. The only way to beat them is to design assessments they can’t reproduce

    Ghost-writing academic work is nothing new but until relatively recently it was out of reach of most students. Now essay mills have started rolling on an industrial scale. Their sophisticated websites offer production of a whole range of assignments up to and including dissertations and theses. If required, a typical undergraduate essay, on pretty much any topic, can be turned around in less than 24 hours.

    Related:Students cheat in ever more creative ways: how can academics stop them?

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  30. In the US, I was coerced into teaching a prepackaged course that stifled creativity. I fear UK universities are not far behind

    Last year, having moved to a new city in the US, I answered an ad to teach part-time in an unaccredited business school looking to improve its status with better-qualified staff. During my job interview the provost told me that she was less interested in my teaching credentials than in my experience as a consultant. I asked why.

    The emphasis of the school, she said, was to employ “instructors” with practical business experience. Proof of teaching ability was of less interest to them. Although I had taught in several highly-ranked business schools previously, I was told that I would not be allowed to design my own curriculum based on material I’d either published myself or selected from the best sources available. Instead, she insisted I use the pre-established course syllabus.

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